While reading VancouverHistory.ca I always check out the sidebar where there’s a teaser for the book, the Street Names of Vancouver by Elizabeth Walker. It asks, “Who was Davie? Why do we have a Broadway? What street was named for a Spanish Secretary of State?” and until the other day my previous knowledge of the origins of some Vancouver street names had floated like a McBarge out of my memory.
Walking down to Waterfront Station the other day John and I paused in the hallway to get some change out for a Jugo Juice and when I looked up at the side of the wall. It was someplace I had never thought to look before but there was a plaque dedicated to Henry John Cambie.
Cambie, a surveyor born in Ireland, was charged with the task for bringing the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) to its terminus on the coast, which he decided would be Vancouver. Plotting the route for the CPR through the Fraser Canyon and out to Burrard Inlet was no easy task. In fact his survey mission began at Yellowhead Pass, through the Rockies and across the Continental Divide.
I have a great photo of me sitting on a monument marking the Continental Divide, one side of me in Alberta the other in BC. However this was from my rebellious teenage years and I simply cannot justify the outfit I was wearing at the time (that and we were on a two week long camping trip) but I digress.
But that’s not the only route Cambie surveyed, “In 1879 surveyed the north for a third route from Prairies to coast. From 1880-83 supervised laying of tracks from Emory Bar to Boston Bar via Fraser Canyon; next supervised Savona to Shuswap Lake. In 1903, moved to Vancouver; retired in 1921.”
In honor of Henry John Cambie, Cambie Street in Vancouver, Cambie Road and H.J. Cambie School in Richmond are all named after him.
The history around here is rather new compared to other parts of the country but it wasn’t until the last century that it started to build up and boom. Talented people like Cambie helped secure the routes that would get people and supplies from our Pacific ports up, over and through the Rockies, truly building BC.